Connecting Education and Careers in Paradise

By Beau Boice

Project Director, Hawaii Initiatives, Strada Education Network

Did you know that Hawaii is the most isolated population center on Earth? While this is great trivia knowledge, it also is an important point to consider when thinking about the challenges the state faces in economic and workforce development.

Currently tourism, health care and the military are the primary drivers of Hawaii’s economy. Hawaii struck economic development gold with tourism, but that industry is rapidly reaching capacity.

Meanwhile, many students in Hawaii have the desire to establish careers there, with many preferring to stay on their home island. While this desire makes sense — Hawaii is beautiful place with a perfect climate — the residents of this isolated area face hurdles in cost of living and a lack of diversity of jobs. Many locals end up moving to the mainland indefinitely.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige has encouraged the state to come together and rally around the idea of building the innovation economy to reverse Hawaii’s brain drain. An award-winning website is helping to advance that goal.

One of the leaders in the innovation economy development effort is the University of Hawaii system. As Hawaii’s lone state higher education system, the University of Hawaii is tasked with preparing much of the state’s workforce. Over the past couple of years, the university has been working to clear up a sometimes-cloudy picture of industry’s future needs — and determine the best way to prepare University of Hawaii students to meet those needs.

Those efforts led to a partnership between the University of Hawaii system and Strada Education NetworkSM.

Building talent pipelines

In 2015 Strada Education Network, then known as USA Funds®, and the University of Hawaii system partnered to first identify the economic and workforce needs of the state — and then build talent pipelines into those high-need areas. The innovation and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) industry sectors have been the main focus of the partnership, but the University of Hawaii has worked to identify workforce needs in all sectors.

One of the major deliverables of this Strada Education-funded project has been the Hawaii Industry Sectors website. The site provides occupational data within individual sectors of Hawaii industry and across the state’s industry overall, in an effort to provide a holistic snapshot of demand and occupations.

Hawaii Industry Sectors infographic

On the Hawaii Industry Sectors website, a high school student can research various careers to find salary information, the career outlook in the state, and where the necessary degree programs are offered.

Making an impact

This spring the Hawaii Industry Sectors website received the 2017 Bernice Joseph Award from the Western Alliance of Community College Academic Leaders. The award recognizes the site’s potential impact for a broad range of decision-makers — students, industry leaders, policymakers and economic development experts.

The site uses real-time data to show current career opportunities and projects future needs and opportunities. This information helps industry leaders and policymakers develop areas of priority and make necessary adjustments to their plans. As I discuss the impact of the website with these stakeholders, I hear an excitement and a feeling of confidence that they — and those planning careers — have a valuable tool to make informed decisions.

The University of Hawaii continues its work on the Hawaii Industry Sectors site, evaluating ways to enhance its value and its ease of use for students.

At Strada Education, one of our objectives is to get more quality information about college and career preparation in the hands of decision-makers. We are pleased to see the Hawaii Industry Sectors site and University of Hawaii get well-deserved recognition for their efforts. And we are excited about the project’s potential to improve the talent pipeline and connect Hawaii residents to local opportunities for fulfilling careers.